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The Catholic way to wrap up the year

Though as Catholics the liturgical New Year starts on the first Sunday of
Advent, we are living in the midst of a civil society and its calendar
runs differently. Our year 2014 is coming to an end tonight. We are
about to wrap this year up, and we want to do this with God as our
center.
What are we to do as Catholics to say good-bye to this year in a
meaningful way? What strategy can we follow in order to take this as
an opportunity for us to grow?
The Yearly Exam
St Ignatius of Loyola taught us in his Exercises to do a daily
examination of conscience at the end of each and every day, in which
we meditate on the events of the day in order to detect Gods
presence and the prompts of the Sprit throughout the day, in order for
us to discern what opportunities we had to grow in virtue. This ancient
Catholic practice is also highly recommended for us at the end of the
year. Before we start a New Year, it would be wise for us to set up a
time to do a prayerful reflection on the events of the year, the
decisions we made along this year, the challenges we faced as well
as the way we handled them, the changes we made along the way,
so that we can grow in awareness of Gods presence in our life and the
promptings of the Spirit inviting us to grow spiritually.
I suggest to you in the following paragraphs an adapted version of the
Jesuits examination that would perfectly fit with our intention to do a
Yearly Examination. This is a simple, brief, and easy to follow yet
comprehensive method of prayer that enables us to look back in
retrospective at the year behind and learn as much as we can from it.
This simple practice will allow us to perceive all the different gifts we
got along this year; all the magnificent blessings bestowed upon us;
and, finally, the consolations and desolations we passed throughout
the year: which direction is our life taking ustoward God
[consolation] or away from him [desolation]? [Cf. Margaret Silf, The
Inner Compass].
1. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you.
Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in
me, Holy Spirit, that my prayer, too, may be holy. Attract my heart,
Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy
Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I
may always be holy. Teach me to know and to seek God; help me to
see Gods presence in my life. Fill my heart with a holy fear and a great
love for Him. Give me compunction and patience, and do not let me fall

into sin.
Increase faith, hope and charity in me and bring forth in me all the
virtues proper to my state of life. Help me to grow in the four cardinal
virtues, Your seven gifts and Your twelve fruits. Grant me also, O Holy
Spirit, Giver of all good gifts, the special favor for which I ask: to do a
good examination of the year that is about to end, if it be for Your
honor and glory and for my well being. Amen.
2. Thanksgiving
Though we celebrate Thanksgiving day once a year, at the end of a
civil year we are to give thanks to God for all the benefits received
throughout the year. This is the best way to wrap the year up; for
thanksgiving and sincere gratefulness brings new blessings to us.
We are to be concrete and very specific. Do not take anything for
granted; give credit to God for all the good things that happened to
you along the way. Give thanks to God for all the opportunities you
were granted.
This is the most important part of the examination, so try to spend as
much time as possible. The success of the whole process depends on
your dedication to this small step.
Are you healthy? Do you have a job? Do you have a family? Do you
have a place to stay? Did you have food on your table this year? Were
you able to go to Church? Did you receive Communion? Were you
absolved from your sins in Confession this year? How many times and
in how many ways God showed his infinite love for you? What about
the way God protected you in those snowy days you were driving
across the city in your daily commute to work?
Here is where you are to be creative; do your part of the job and look
for all the many blessings you have received along the year. Do not
pass to the next step before you have actually squeezed the whole
year in search for benefits. Take your time here.
3. Explore the content of your actions.
Did you grow in your willingness to serve the needy? How did you
follow the golden rule: do to others as you would have them to do to
you? Did you volunteer at Church? Did you help with the chores around
the house? Were you approachable at work? Did you offer your daily
work up to God as a living sacrifice to give him glory?
This part of the Yearly Exam is for us to see the values of our actions.
We are to discern here whether or not we manifested virtue through
our deeds. Remember, the simplest tasks can be extraordinary
depending on the amount of love we put into them. We are called as
Catholics to seek perfection by virtue of doing everything with the
utmost love for God and for our neighbor. What was your intention

for all the actions you perform this year? Were you aiming to give God
your glory? How was your prayer life along the year? How did you
respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit inviting you to improve
your participation on the sacraments?
4. What struggles did you have along his year?
At times it is easy to see the helping hand of God working in our lives.
However, we all experience periods of desert when the presence of
God is not as easy for us to see. It is in those moments when we are to
get closer to God, for only under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can
turn those moments into glorious experiences.
Was there a moment when you struggled to perceive Gods blessings
in your life? Under what circumstances did it happen? What did you do
in those moments of desert? What did you rely on? Did you
successfully pass the test of faith?
When we feel challenged in our faith and trust in God lets hold on tight
to our Hope. In those moments we are to follow the lead of our Savior
who also experienced this when He was in the garden of Gethsemane
as well as when He was hang up on the cross.
In the final analysis, in those periods of spiritual desert, the only key to
succeed is to strengthen our hope. We find in the book of Job a great
example of steadfast hope and perseverance: I know that I have a
living Defender and that he will rise up last, on the dust of the earth.
After my awakening, he will set me close to him, and from my flesh I
shall look on God. He whom I shall see will take my part: my eyes will
be gazing on no stranger. (Job 19:25-27)
5. Ask pardon to God for the faults
This implies way more than just being sorry, for it entails a
comprehensive commitment to get rid of whatever does not belong to
God and grow in virtue.
When did you not feel at your best? What did you do against Gods
will?
More often than not, we fail to do Gods will for the many opportunities
to do good that we miss. This is why, in this prayerful reflection on the
year behind, we are to seek not only for things we did wrong but,
mostly, for the many good things we could have done for the sake of
others and we didnt. Remember that the only commandment we were
given by Jesus is all about love: love for God and love for our neighbor.
At the end of this life we all will be judged by this simple rule. So, lets
not deceive ourselves thinking that we are okay in the eyes of God
because we havent done anything wrong, lets make sure we are
doing something good for the sake of others on a daily basis. After all,
to be welcome into Heaven we are to master virtue and love; not

having sins is not enough, that would be just an initial phase a very
good first step, indeed but not enough in itself; we are to do good
deeds.
If you find in your discernment that you fail in this, ask God with a
contrite and sincere heart to forgive you and give you the grace to
amend.
If the faults you have discovered are grave sins if they were done
with full consent and knowledge you are invited to receive the
Sacrament of Reconciliation as soon as possible and do not receive the
Eucharist until you have done so.
6. Finally, to purpose amendment with Gods grace.
Imagine God seated beside you and loving you as only He can do. Out
of love for him resolve to do better in the year ahead, obviously
counting on his grace and assistance.
We will address this final step in more detail in our next blogs posting.